Gillis et al v. Murphy-Brown, LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 301 Motion to Allow Post-Trial Contact with Jurors. Signed by Senior Judge David A. Faber on 2/5/2019. (Edwards, S.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
CASE NO: 7:14-CV-185-BR
ANNJEANETTE GILLIS, et al.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MURPHY-BROWN, LLC d/b/a
SMITHFIELD HOG PRODUCTION
Pending before the court is defendant’s motion for to
allow post-trial contact with jurors.
(ECF No. 301).
As our appeals court stated just last year,
There are good reasons for limiting the
parties’ interactions with jurors after the
verdict. Jury service needs to come to a timely
conclusion. See Pena-Rodriguez [v. Colorado], 137
S. Ct.  at 865, 869 [(2017)]. It ordinarily
ends, logically enough, when the jurors reach a
verdict. Losing parties may have an incentive to
uncover the course of deliberations with an eye to
undermining the jury’s conclusion. See McDonald
v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 267-69, 35 S. Ct. 783, 59
L. Ed. 1300 (1915). The judicial system, by
contrast, possesses an interest in protecting the
confidentiality of juror discussions and in
allowing jurors to resume their normal routines.
See Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107, 118-20,
107 S. Ct. 2739, 97 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1987). The
willingness of jurors to serve and to speak freely
during deliberations depends on this noimpeachment principle. See Rakes v. United
States, 169 F.2d 739, 745-46 (4th Cir. 1948).
Post-verdict interrogations have at least the
potential to stretch out or to turn adversarial,
and thereby undermine the no-impeachment
United States v. Birchette, 908 F.3d 50, 55-56 (4th Cir. 2018).
district court’s denial of a request to interview jurors is
reviewed for an abuse of discretion.
See id. (“This is a
deferential standard, designed primarily to correct the arbitrary
exercise of authority while upholding the range of reasonable
judgment calls a trial judge is well positioned to make.”).
In support of its motion, Murphy-Brown states:
As the Court is aware, there are currently
eight other cases set for trial that are related
to the recently concluded trial. The juries in
these upcoming cases will consider many of the
same issues considered by the jury in this case.
Murphy-Brown seeks to interview the jurors only to
hone—and make more concise—the arguments it
presented in this bellwether trial. The need for
juror interviews is especially acute here because
the Court did not use a special verdict form
during the compensatory damages phase of the
trial. As a result, without interviews, MurphyBrown is not able to ascertain which aspect or
aspects of the operations at the Sholar Farm the
jury actually perceived to constitute a nuisance.
This information could be invaluable in attempting
to streamline future trials, and potentially even
avoiding new claims in the future.
Additionally, the requested interviews are
not being conducted as part of any effort to
challenge the judgment. Murphy-Brown will
stipulate that it will not seek to introduce any
testimony from any of the jurors gathered during
post-trial interviews. Therefore, many of the
oft-voiced concerns regarding post-trial jury
interviews—including that they lead to post-trial
litigation and attempts to set aside verdicts—are
not implicated. Finally, if the Court allows
interviews, there would be no prejudice to
Plaintiffs because any order allowing contact with
jurors could apply equally to all Parties.
ECF No. 301 at pp.3-4.
Defendant’s desire to interview the jurors
in order to “hone” its arguments for further trials is not a
compelling reason to allow post-verdict interviews with jurors
under the facts and circumstances of this case.
“The [ ]
interests of both the disgruntled litigant and its counsel in
interviewing jurors in order to satisfy their curiosity and
improve their curiosity are limited.”
Haeberle v. Texas Intern.
Airlines, 739 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1984) (denying attorney
leave to interview jurors about basis for adverse verdict where
counsel “sought information to satisfy their own curiosity and
improve their techniques of advocacy”); see also Sixberry v.
Buster, 88 F.R.D. 561, 561-62 (E.D. Pa. 1989) (“It is well settled
that the Federal courts strongly disfavor `any public or private
post-trial inquisition of jurors as to how they reasoned, lest it
operate to intimidate, beset and harass them’ . . .
instances in which such questioning of jurors is allowed, it is
limited for the purpose of allowing counsel to investigate
possible irregularities that might provide grounds for a new trial
. . . .
Counsel cites no cases, nor does our research disclose
any cases, which permit an attorney to conduct a post-trial
inquisition of jurors solely to improve the trial skills of the
trial attorney.”); Olsson v. A.O. Smith Harvestore Prods., Inc.,
696 F. Supp. 411, 412 (S.D. Ind. 1986) (“Post-verdict
communications with jurors solely for the purpose of an attorney’s
self-education cannot be permitted.”).
Significantly, defendant’s desire to speak with the jurors
was brought to the court’s attention after the jurors were
Therefore, the court was unable to: 1) ascertain from
the jurors whether they would be willing to talk with counsel; and
2) provide any sort of instruction to the jurors regarding their
rights surrounding such contact.
Furthermore, given the extensive
media coverage of this case, coupled with the fact that there are
numerous cases yet to be tried, the court does not find that
defendant has provided a compelling reason to intrude upon the
jury’s deliberations in this case.
The jury in this case has
already been burdened by sitting through a multi-week trial and
the court does not want to discourage further jury service by
permitting contact when the jury has not said such contact would
See id. (noting that prohibiting post-trial
communications with jurors “avoid[s] the harassment of jurors,
thereby encouraging jury service and freedom of discussion in the
The Clerk is directed to send copies of this Order to all
counsel of record.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 5th day of February, 2019.
David A. Faber
Senior United States District Judge
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